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Menu Foods sues ChemNutra

Tainted pet food cat fights

By Judi McLeod

Friday, April 27, 2007

The Pet Food Institute (PFI), which represents U.S. pet food manufacturers, could be the only entity in existence claiming faith in swift action to answer questions about how melamine--a substance foreign to pet food--ended up in specific ingredients from China.

China banned melamine yesterday and said it would cooperate with U.S. Federal Drug Administration (FDA) agents expected in their country to investigate the melamine mystery.

ChemNutra was one step ahead of the FDA in announcing today that FDA has searched its offices.

"The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) today conducted a search of ChemNutra's offices in Las Vegas, NV, as part of a misdemeanor investigation into whether the Federal Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act has been violated." (MARKET WIRE, April 27, 2007).

"ChemNutra's officers have been informed that, under the legal doctrine of "strict liability", the company could be held accountable because it imported the melamine-adulterated wheat gluten that is one reason for the current pet food recalls, even though the company had no prior knowledge, or reason to believe, that its Chinese supplier had put melamine in the product."

"We also now believe that our wheat gluten customer, Menu Foods, used significantly more wheat gluten monthly than we supplied to them, so we hope that Menu Foods will disclose its other sources to the FDA to ensure that any suspect product is quarantined," said Steve Miller, Chief Executive Officer of ChemNutra.

The MARKET WIRE statement by ChemNutra follows yesterday's announcement that Menu Foods is suing ChemNutra.

But it will take more than the FDA, and indeed even more than Sherlock Holmes to solve the mystery of how and why melamine made its way into commercial pet foods in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and South Africa when inspections get underway in China.

Indeed it is only after dragging their heels for weeks that officials in the Peoples' Republic of China have agreed to allow FDA officials the necessary visas to travel to the Orient to inspect the two Chinese companies that exported melamine to the U.S.

What possible proof could the FDA or the world's best detectives find months after the export took place?

It's a long way to travel now that the horse is out of the proverbial barn.

"In a letter delivered Wednesday from PFI President Duane Ekedahl to Ambassador Schwab and Commissioner von Eschenbach, the industry urged the two officials "to use all means at your disposal" to determine how melamine, an adulterant apparently imported into the United States from two Chinese companies, found its way into simple ingredients for pet food." (Southwest Nebraska News, April 26, 2007). "The Pet Food Institute said it has been "heartened" by reports the Chinese government is actively investigating the two companies implicated in the shipment, but expressed frustration that it has taken so long for U.S. inspectors to gain access to Chinese facilities.

Some pet owners ponder how PFI could write, "Fortunately, some 99 percent of pet food still remains unaffected by the recall and may be purchased with confidence…."But until the ultimate source of the contaminated ingredients is identified and contained, we cannot rest."

Consumers, knowing that some of the recalled pet foods are still available on supermarket shelves and having heard about new recalls only last week, hardly believe that commercial pet food can be purchased with much confidence.

They worry that pet food manufacturers will resume using more cheap Chinese ingredients, which may be contaminated with something else.

"Sorry sir, the smoke screens and mirrors aren't going to work anymore." Michael Giacco, of Orlando, Florida wrote in an open letter to Ekedahl, care of Canada Free Press (CFP).

"You're facing a different consumer mentality now, no longer the pre-March 16 trusting and innocent willingness to believe anything told to us in commercial advertising and food labels.

"Over are the days when consumers like myself, believing I am buying "better" "safer" foods, go out of my way to purchase an IAMS, or a Nutro, or a Science/Hills…and risk the chance that the same contaminant that makes the 22-cent Special-Kitty toxic to my cat is also present in the 400 percent pricier "name" brand.

"Take a lesson from the courageous decisions made by the pet food industry in South Africa, and little Royal Canin--tell your North American consumers you will no longer be importing cheap, unregulated ingredients from China and other suspect source-countries. Put that in a full-page ad in the Times, Post and USA Today, and in letters to veterinarians.

"You say, "purchase with confidence" and because it's you saying it, I don't have a whole lot of confidence. I can't rest either…because I don't know for sure anymore, what is safe. You, on the other hand, "cannot rest", because for the time being, you're forced to have to use pricier ingredients."

In the latest twist to the seemingly never ending tainted pet food story, the same recalled pet foods that sickened untold numbers of dogs and cats, has been branded "salvaged" and was fed to thousands of hogs in up to six states. Hogs that ate the contaminated pet food will be destroyed and their owners compensated, U.S. government officials said.

Nothing further has been heard about the hogs or whether through them, the contaminant has entered the human food supply.

The Pet Food Institute recently announced the formation of the National Pet Food Commission, a group of veterinarians, toxicologists, food scientists and other professionals from industry, government and academia who will study the cause of the adulteration leading to the recent recalls to identify any lessons. The commission has already started its proceedings and will issue a report outlining its recommendations.

Since 1958, the Pet Food Institute has been the voice of U.S. pet food manufacturers. PFI is the industry's public education and media relations resource, representative before the U.S. Congress and state and federal agencies, organizer of seminars and educational programs, and liaison with other organizations. PFI represents the manufacturers of 98 percent of all dog and cat food produced in the United States.

PFI members include Toronto-based Menu Foods Income Trust Fund. Menu Foods was the first of at least six companies to recall pet food and treats made with the tainted Chinese wheat gluten. It alone has recalled 100 brands of pet foods, sold throughout North America under its private and major labels.

ChemNutra, the Las Vegas-based company that supplied the wheat gluten to Menu Foods and three other companies has database entries on the Pet Food Institute, dated April 19, 2004.

Canada Free Press founding editor Most recent by Judi McLeod is an award-winning journalist with 30 years experience in the print media. Her work has appeared on Newsmax.com, Drudge Report, Foxnews.com, Glenn Beck. Judi can be reached at: [email protected]

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